Amazombie – On Halloween morning, Amazombie rose from the straw (of his stall) and proceeded out into the predawn fog. A scene dramatic enough for the opener of a horror film.
But Bill Spawr is a thoroughbred trainer, not a movie director. And the most appropriately named horse for the holiday, also the $1.5 million Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint defending champion, was routinely put through a 6f jog and 1 ½m gallop under exercise rider Javier Meza. The same as he'd done the day before, and the day before that.
"It is Halloween, isn't it," Spawr said when the subject was mentioned. Then he resumed focus on the exercise by the 6yo winner of more than $1.3 million that Spawr owns in a 75%-25% partnership with Thomas Sanford.
"It was foggy and you couldn't see much," Spawr said. "But when he came down the stretch and got in some company he was pulling the last sixteenth of a mile."
Spawr plans a breeze for Thursday morning as a final serious tune-up before sending out Amazombie with the intention of becoming the second horse to win consecutive Sprint runnings after Midnight Lute (2007-08).
How Amazombie got his Halloween-appropriate name is part of the great unknown.
The son of Northern Afleet had the moniker when obtained by Spawr as part of a two-horse package. Spawr consulted with Sanford regarding changing the name, but both thought it was "cool" as is. Attempts to find out who named the horse and why have been unsuccessful.
"Nobody knows," Spawr said. "We asked the breeders, they didn't know. We asked the farm manager, he doesn't know. It's a mystery."
Boxeur des Rues – The 4yo colt galloped 1 1/8m on the main track at Santa Anita Wednesday under exercise rider Norberto Vasquez.
Capital Account/Coil/Fast Bullet – Trainer Bob Baffert had media dates and a round of trick or treating with his 7-year-old son Bode on his agenda for later in the day, but Wednesday at 7:45 he was trackside at Santa Anita to watch his contingent of 10 Breeders’ Cup horses train. Three of them – Coil, Capital Account and Fast Bullet – were out for gallops with his 7:45 or 8:15 sets on a foggy morning at Santa Anita.
The Hall of Fame conditioner is a multi-tasking specialist, directing his riders via walkie talkie for their gallops or works, answering questions by the bunches and cracking jokes with his crew of owners and interested onlookers.
“Coil is good now, but I’m concerned that this distance (6f) is too short for him. What he does have going for him this time is all the competition. When he makes the lead, he wants to wait on horses. But there will be something in front of him to shoot at in this one. You can count on that.
“Capital Account is ready. So ready. But you need a lot of luck with a horse like him. He’s coming from the back and you need some luck.
Fast Bullet will be on the lead. Oh, yeah, he’ll be there. Maybe you’ll see a 43 and 4 (fifths) half. It’ll depend on the track. We will see how fast it is that day. The last time they ran the Sprint here it wasn’t that fast.”
For the record, the most recent Sprint run at Santa Anita was in 2009 and was won by longshot Dancing In Silks in 1:08. The year before at Santa Anita, Baffert had saddled Midnight Lute to win the same race in 1:07.
Gantry – In the fall of 2011, Louisiana native Ron Faucheux was in search of a horse to start in the traditional opening day feature at Fair Grounds, the Thanksgiving Day Handicap. That hunt turned up a gelding named Gantry that had been running in optional claiming allowance races in New York, and approximately one year later, the son of Pulpit will start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“That was it; we just wanted a horse that was going to be competitive that day, and maybe in the other sprint stakes they have down there, but that was it,” Faucheux said. “I believe we were 8-1 in the morning line that day, but he ran bigger than that and he got up to win by a nose. Then we went on and swept the sprint stakes from there and really progress as a sprinter.
“But then after he won the Duncan Kenner, the last of the Fair Grounds sprint stakes, in 1:08 and change, that’s when we knew we had something. It takes a special horse to do that at the Fair Grounds. After that, we knew we had to try him against tougher competition.”
The first opportunity to take on stronger rivals came in the Churchill Downs Handicap in which Gantry finished third behind Shackleford and Amazombie. The gelding then shipped to Calder where he won the biggest race of his career, the Smile Sprint, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race.
Gantry was most recently second in the Temperance Hill Stakes at Louisiana Downs.
“We really didn’t have him tuned up for that last race,” Faucheux said of the Temperance Hill. “We gave him some time off after the Smile and trained him very light going into that race. We were mostly using it as a work; a true prep race for this. We’re hoping he’ll be peaked-out once again for this race as he was for the Smile.”
In order to accomplish that goal, Faucheux has employed similar tactics in advance of the Sprint as he did leading up to the Smile.
“He’s training kind of the same way here as he was going into the Calder race,” Faucheux said. “We did the same thing; shipped in a little early to get a work over the track and have a similar strategy. And I have the same feeling about him now that I did then. I really like the way he’s been training. He’s gotten really strong once we got him on the surface. That’s a good sign.”
Hamazing Destiny – The D. Wayne Lukas sprinter put in his normal 1 1/2m gallop Wednesday morning as the Hall of Fame trainer moved his two-time Sprint contestant toward a third time in the race.
The 6yo son of Salt Lake is closing in on millionaire status and a high finish in the 6f dash could get him to that level. He was second in his first Sprint try at Churchill Downs in 2010.
Jimmy Creed – Richard Mandella “got the attention” of the Distorted Humor colt Jimmy Creed Wednesday morning. He felt he had to.
The Hall of Fame trainer is running three horses in this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup races and he’s worked two of them the past two days. Yesterday he sent his 2yo filly Beholder through a nice, easy 3f work in 39 3/5 prior to her Friday start in the Juvenile Fillies. Wednesday morning he sent Jimmy Creed the same distance, but this time the clock read 35 flat.
“I wanted to give him a sharpener and we got it,” Mandella said afterward. “Generally I’ve found that with fillies you’re usually wanting to settle them down. But with colts, you need to get their attention. It wasn’t that I was trying to put speed on his (Jimmy Creed’s) mind; he’s already got that. But I want to remind him we’re getting serious and this did the trick.”
The work occurred shortly after 8 a.m. with exercise rider Janeen Painter in the tack, starting at the quarter pole and going to the seven-eighths pole. The move was second-best of 12 at the distance at Santa Anita Wednesday morning.
Justin Phillip – Zayat Stable’s colt was one of five Breeders’ Cup starters for trainer Steve Asmussen that returned to the track to gallop Wednesday following 4f workouts Monday.
“They’re all doing well,” said Asmussen. “They all just had easy gallops. It’s a matter of keeping them all happy now.”
Smiling Tiger – The veteran of 21 starts, with earnings of $1.2 million, galloped 1 1/2m Wednesday before heading to the paddock for schooling later in the morning.
The Jeff Bonde trainee will be making his second start in the Sprint. He finished third in 2010, right behind Hamazing Destiny, who he will face again on Saturday.
The Lumber Guy – Trainer Mike Hushion liked what he saw Wednesday during the 3yo colt’s 1 1/8m gallop.
“He looked better than any other horse out there,” Hushion said after describing the morning outing for race week exercise as “perfect.”
The Lumber Guy was bred in New York by Barry K. Schwartz, the former chairman of the New York Racing Association. The gray colt was on Triple Crown trail early this year and later won the Jerome at Aqueduct. He was given the summer off to get over some issues with his feet and thrust himself into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint picture with a resounding victory in the Vosburgh Invitational on September 29 at Belmont Park.
Hushion said the colt has settled into this new surroundings at Santa Anita Park after shipping from New York on Monday.
“The outward signs are pretty good,” Hushion said. “There is plenty for him to look around and see.”
Trinniberg – The last time Trinniberg wore blinkers in a race was the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint where the colt ran an opening quarter-mile in 20 4/5 before fading to finish seventh. The colt will wear blinkers once again when starting in this year’s Sprint, although trainer Shivananda Parbhoo is counting on a different result.
“Right now I think we need the blinkers back on to keep him a little more focused, especially in the final eighth” Parbhoo said. “And the blinkers we’ll use are a short cup, so I don’t think it will be that big of a change.”
Trinniberg, who arrived at Santa Anita on Oct. 15, has worked twice over the track, blasting 4f moves in 47 and 47 2/5, both with blinkers on.
“Those works were just him,” Parbhoo said of the quick times recorded. “But he was on a hold the entire way.”
In his last start, the Gallant Bob at Parx Racing, Trinniberg held the lead late before getting caught in the final yards, beaten a half-length by a closer that came from last while racing down the center of the track.
“After the race, the first question I had for (jockey) Willie (Martinez) was whether he saw the horse on the outside,” Parbhoo said. “And he said ‘no.’ I said ‘that’s ok; that’s fine.’ After Willie took the lead at the eighth pole, he didn’t see anyone behind him. That considered, I thought it was a great race.”
As for the Sprint, Parbhoo believes Trinniberg can come from off the pace if necessary, and at this point is not committing to a strategy.
“I think we’re going to try and avoid going to the lead in this race if we can,” Parbhoo said. “We drew the perfect post (9) and from there we can settle in a good spot up close, but not on the lead. Then again, maybe he just goes. We’ll find out on race day what happens.”